All right, so I got a little sidetracked, but now I'm back on task. We were taking a look at the Mark Richt record, which stacks up more than fairly well in comparison to the portfolios compiled by those of his predecessors who lasted as many as seven seasons on the job; namely, W.A. Cunningham (1910-1916), Harry Mehre (1928-1934), Wally Butts (1939-1945), Vince Dooley (1964-1970), and Ray Goff (1989-1995).
Coach Goff, obviously, did not return for an eighth season, but the rest of the luminaries on that list did, just as Coach Richt also will. (Since Georgia did not field football teams in 1917 and 1918, when much of the able-bodied student population from Athens was in Europe fighting the First World War, I am counting 1919 as Coach Cunningham's eighth autumn at the Red and Black helm.)
After concluding his career at Georgia, Coach Cunningham moved to Milwaukee, got married, opened a hardware store, and had three children, although he, along with everyone else, pretty much forgot about his first-born son, Chuck, sometime during the second season of "Happy Days."
How, then, have Georgia coaches fared in their respective eighth seasons in the Classic City? Here is how the records break down:
Mehre: 6-4 (1935)
Butts: 11-0 (1946)
Dooley: 11-1 (1971)
Obviously, those last two ledgers look pretty encouraging, as Coach Butts and Coach Dooley turned in eleven-win seasons culminating in bowl victories---in the Sugar Bowl in 1946 and in the Gator Bowl in 1971---in campaigns comparable to Coach Richt's forthcoming 2008 season.
In the four years of 1919, 1935, 1946, and 1971, the Bulldogs cumulatively posted the following records against noteworthy opponents:
Georgia Tech: 2-1
Louisiana State: 0-1
Mississippi State: 1-0
South Carolina: 2-0
Of course, there is no predictive value to any of this, but, as bad as those ledgers seem against Yellowhammer State schools and as regrettable as it is that there are no data upon which to base a Tennessee prediction, I draw some solace from the fact that no eighth-year head coach in Georgia history has ever lost to the Gators.
Just thought I'd point that out.
Next fall, for just the fifth time in the long and storied heritage of the University, the Red and Black will take the field to open their eighth straight season under the direction of the same head coach. They may run out of the tunnel for the season opener as the No. 1 team in the nation; they almost certainly will tee it up between the hedges with a top five ranking and the loftiest of expectations.
Coach Richt already has entered some pretty exclusive territory---he has coached more games than all but three of his predecessors and, after Coach Richt leads the 'Dawgs onto the field for the 100th time in Jacksonville next November 1, only Coach Butts and Coach Dooley will have paced the Georgia sideline more times than our current chief---and next season offers a remarkable opportunity for taking the next step.
The oldest of the Baby Boomers, born in 1946, will celebrate their 62nd birthdays in 2008. I like Coach Richt's chances to give 'em for a retirement gift what Coach Butts gave 'em for a birthday present: an undefeated season by the Bulldogs. That's the only drill left unfinished.